In May, spurred by the incredible success of The Hunger Games, the New York Times positioned the popularity of teen reads as a debate topic, asking, "Why has young adult fiction become such a phenomenon — even with older adults?" Countering the objections of people (Joel Stein) who say "reading down" is a show of some sort of stunted emotional adulthood, I can think of a few reasonable explanations for the popularity of the books with grownups. Also, we prefer "cross-under" as the term for adults reading young.
They are good. Others scoff but readers know what they're talking about. The Hunger Games was so fast-paced and thrilling I had to put it down at various points throughout my read just to give myself a bit of mind-space in which to think about it, because I didn't want it to end too quickly, and because a person has to stop and breathe now and again! (This happened when I recently read The Giver, too.) These books are intense. But they're also compelling: I'd set it down for just a moment, driven near immediately to pick it back up again, and ultimately finished The Hunger Games and the other two books in the series in a matter of hours, one night for each. I have a friend who has, similarly, has forced herself to take breaks between reading the books in the series so that she doesn't complete them too quickly. Y.A. books are not just kids books, they're often good books, too, or as author and book critic Lev Grossman wrote in the Times in May, "Young adult novels can be as powerful as anything out there." Possibly more so. When was the last time you stayed up all night to finish a book, and what was it? Mine were all Y.A.
Harry Potter made reading them O.K. Harry Potter. Twilight. The Hunger Games. These are the triumvirate that inspired the latest fervor in the publishing business among editors, agents, business folks, aspiring writers, and readers. Seeing these books emerge from the teen books section and appear nearly everywhere we went, including as movies—not to mention hearing them discussed by adults as often as they were by kids—made it OK to jump on that bandwagon, too. Once a lot of people got over the stigma, they found that, yes, these books are good! (See above.) But before such books were categorized as Y.A. we were reading them regardless of our age, for instance, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, the Anne of Green Gables series, and Catcher in the Rye and Lord of the Flies, each of which has been argued to be "Y.A." by some, as has Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. That just goes to show that Y.A. more a marketing concept than anything else. Age is just a number, and the books themselves, and not the label, are what's important. Dumbledore's lesson is, read what you like.
Read the rest at The Atlantic